Bodie Ghost Town: Spectres, Curses and “Arrested Decay”

(Image by Jon Sullivan via Public Domain Photos)

The old mining settlement at Bodie in California is arguably America’s best preserved ghost town. Dating back to around 1859, Bodie is frozen in a state of “arrested decay”, looked after as a historic park but not restored to its original condition. This makes the town both authentic and mysterious, with original fixtures in the buildings left untouched since their occupiers deserted them. In essence, it is as though an entire community just disappeared.

(Images by Jon Sullivan via Public Domain Photos)

In the words of one Urban Ghosts reader, “Bodie is a photographer‘s dream”.  So with that thought in mind, here’s a selection of stunning images to inspire and intrigue, accompanied by stories of hauntings and curses that’ll make your blood run cold.

Bodie Folklore

(Image by  Licensed under CC-SA-3.0)

Local legend speaks of a little girl whose family moved to the town from San Francisco.  Depending on who’s telling the story, the girl allegedly wrote in her diary: “Good, by God, I’m going to Bodie” or alternatively, “Goodbye God, I’m going to Bodie.”  The inherent lawlessness and shadowy profiteering of the Wild West certainly suggests the latter, but could there be more sinister forces at work here?  Read on!

Haunted Bodie

(Images by Jon Sullivan via Public Domain Photos)

Unsurprisingly, Bodie abounds with legends of the paranormal, none more famous than the haunted Cain residence.  Jim Cain was a local businessman who prospered from bringing lumber to Bodie.  Buildings were constructed from and heated by wood, and the mills burned vast amounts of it in their steam-driven engines, fattening Mr Cain’s wallet with every last ember.

(Images 1 & 2 by Mispahn, 3 by Melissa Wiese, 4 by Thomas Kriese.  Licensed under CC-2.0)

Cain built his home at the corner of Green and Park Street and hired a Chinese maid.  Rumours soon spread that the pair were having an affair, and the maid was promptly fired by Cain’s wife.  Publically disgraced – an impressive feat in a town dominated by gambling, prostitution, shoot-outs and robbery – the unfortunate maid was unable to find work and took her own life.

(Images by Jon Sullivan via Public Domain Photos)

Legend has it the maid’s ghost haunts the Cain house to this day, unable to rest or let others rest within its walls.  Over the years, the house has provided accomodation for park rangers and has also been open to the public.  Children have reported a ghostly apparition in an upstairs bedroom, while others have heard music coming from the same room, which always seems to be empty.

(Images by Daniel Mayer (top) and Thomas.fanghaenel.  Licensed under CC-SA-3.0)

In one chilling account, the wife of a park ranger said:

“I was lying in bed with my husband in the lower bedroom and I felt a pressure on me, as though someone was on top of me. I began fighting. I fought so hard I ended up on the floor. It really frightened me. Another ranger who had lived there, Gary Walters, had the same experience, in the same room, except that he also saw the door open and felt a presence and a kind of suffocation.”

Taken in isolation, incidents like this can easily be discounted as a figment of the imagination or a bad dream.  But when different people report the same spooky experience, it’s time to call in the ghost hunters.

(Images by Telstar Logistics and James Marvin Phelps.  Licensed under CC-NC-2.0 and CC-2.0)

The Curse of Bodie

One of the most bizarre stories associated with Bodie is a mysterious curse that, again according to folklore and hearsay, has been cast on certain visitors to the town.  Allegedly, the spirits of the dead residents serve as guardians of the town today, bringing bad luck and misfortune to souvenir hunters who take anything – regardless of size – with them after they leave.

(Images by Jon Sullivan via Public Domain Photos)

It’s a fun story, you might say… But could the fact that, each year, park rangers receive objects in the mail from anonymous senders, serve as an eerie omen for anyone who might have removed even the most insignificant of objects?  Or do people simply hear the stories and decide to offload their souvenirs as quickly as possible?  Either way, something makes people wish they’d left well alone, and notes have even been received apologising to park rangers and the spirits who watch over the ghost town.

(Images 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, by Daniel Mayer.  Licensed under CC-SA-3.0)

The families may have moved out – at least in body – but photographer Daniel Mayer has done a great job of cataloguing which families lived in which houses.  The building at bottom left was the town morgue, where many of those that perished here would have rested prior to burial.  But if the legends are to be believed, their souls didn’t rest for long, condemned to wander – and watch – the ghost town for eternity.



  • carissa33

    On Aug 5th 2013 my family and I visited Bodie I had always wanted to see it, I pleaded with my hubby who likes old stuff plz do not take ANYTHING, just in case that Bodie curse was real I did not want to put myself in that position or allow something like that in my home. We went to Bodie it was wonderful to see and we had a great time spent 4 hours there ate lunch had fun. When we arrived home my husband had a purple piece of glass a blue and a green and a few other glass pieces I was like why did you do that. I was mad but just let it go because I am not that superstitious.The next day Aug 6th my back started hurting me very bad I went to the doc and he said I had a disc slightly outta line prescribed me a valium so I would have a good sleep so that he could give me an adjustment the next day, I took the Valium that night (never had taken Valium b4) and I was restless did not sleep all night and woke up with a pounding headache my eyes hurt so bad and my back was even worse, I asked my hubby to stay home from work and take me to the hospital where they gave me a shot Demorol for pain in my butt and told me I had a real bad sinus infection after the E.R. I went to my doctor for my back adjustment and told him about the Valium he told me 1 in 2000 people have the oppositt reaction to what Valium is supposed to do and that he will note in my chart no Valium He decided not to mess with my back because I was in so much pain I was wearing sunglasses inside because of my eyes hurt so bad. So the the rest of the day Aug 6 and 7th,8th and 9th I was in bed sick and sore.On Aug 10th we went to a Reno Aces game in Reno Nv with our kids we stayed half the game the game because it was very hot so we went home early to go swimming when we got we were getting our suits on and while doing this my 6 year old son grabbed my oldest sons epi-pen while playing with it he accidently shot it thru his finger right thru one end to the other so we headed to the hospital again, my son was ok but if the epi-pen had not gone all the way thru he would have lost his finger. ( so a lil good luck there). The next two days were ok just cleaning and preparing for my best friend to come visit and preparation to make a baby shower cake for another friend, I told my husband see you should have not taken that glass I was going to take it back on Aug 6th but got sick then was going to send it back on the way to the pool on the 10th but just could not get to the Post Office. Well the bad luck did not end yet on Aug 14th my back was still pretty painful but I went about cleaning and getting stuff ready for my friends visit everything was pretty normal we cleaned did yard work when my daughter stepped on a red ant ( no big deal) still went on with our day and that evening my kids were in the back yard playing and climbing the tree when my daughter comes running in screaming that she hurt her arm, I asked what had happened she said she was climbing the tree and fell, right then I knew she broke her arm rushed her to the E.R. they did not think she broke it just bruised ( but I already knew after the week we had that it was) they took X-Rays and the Doc comes back and says well you actually did break it so she is currently in a sling for 5 more weeks with a broken/fractured humerous. That was it for me the next morning I got that glass picked it up with a paper towel (did not want to touch it) stuck it in and envelope called Bodie got the address and as soon as the Post Office opened took it down and sent it back that was on Aug 15th. Things were a lil cruddy on the 16th my anxiety was high I finished getting stuff ready for my friend she came we went out came home and worked on the baby shower cake we had problem after problem with that cake and we were up till 3:30am ( I believe that was the last residual of our curse) everything has been fine since. It may have been just a coincidence my husband thinks so but we never know I told him cause he took the glass if he had not taken it maybe these things would have still happened but like I said we will never know, So I recommend do not take any rocks,glass, trinkets from Bodie this is from experience its just not a good idea I still highly recomment to go visit Bodie because it is great not scary or anything we do plan to go back ( I told my husband he cannot come because I dont trust him lol). We did collect a black and orange feather a bird feather not a Bodie feather from there and flowers growing around ,they are here in my home no problems with tho’s but stuff connected to Bodie that may have history leave it there it was a scary 2 weeks and we were miserable. Just leave the stuff be and enjoy the sights at Bodie.

  • Anisa

Popular Posts


Latest Articles


Explore Urban Ghosts


    Sponsored Content


    Abandoned & Urbex


    Send this to friend

    Urban Ghosts uses cookies to enhance your browsing experience and to serve you with advertisements that might interest you. By continuing to use this site, you agree to our use of cookies. Privacy Policy

    The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.